Shanghai Shentong Metro Group has signed a collaboration agreement with Alibaba Group and Alipay-operator Ant Financial to improve the passenger experience by deploying artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

Under the agreement, Shanghai Metro’s mobile app METRO will include an Alipay payment option from early next year.

To be accessible at all Shanghai Metro stations, the new payment option will eliminate the need for subway cards or tickets.

“Our voice-recognition ticketing machine is the first of its kind to realise far-field voice interaction in noisy public spaces like a subway station, with accuracy.”

The passengers can use their smartphones to swipe through the subway gates to travel to their destinations.

At the signing ceremony, a new AI-powered ticketing machine was demonstrated that combines Alibaba-owned AutoNavi’s mapping technology with far-field voice-recognition technology and Ant Financial’s payment system.

The machine will be activated automatically when a person comes near and detects sound inputs, even in noisy environments.

Its technology will assist the user to identify the nearest subway stop to any given destination through voice commands and process instant payments through Alipay.

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Alibaba intelligent speech recognition director Zhijie Yan said: “Traditional voice-interaction technology has been applied to quiet environments in the home or in cars, but our voice-recognition ticketing machine is the first-of-its-kind to realise far-field voice interaction in noisy public spaces like a subway station, with accuracy.”

The three associated parties agreed to explore the implementation of this new ticketing machine across the network.

Alibaba is also expected to assist Shanghai Metro to optimise its existing traffic-management system to accurately predict possible congestions, as well as deploy facial-scanning technologies at subway gates to facilitate passenger movement at the terminals.